|A partly demolished Plough in Southport|
This is borne out by our experience locally: suburban pubs we have lost in Southport include The Herald, The Portland, the Shakespeare, the London and the Plough - all in predominantly residential areas. A CAMRA spokesperson said: "Suburban pubs are classic street-corner, wet-led pubs and community locals that have been an integral part of British culture for hundreds of years. Unfortunately though, as drinking habits change and property prices rise, they are being hit the worst."
I think that's true, but it doesn't tell the whole story. Debt-ridden pub companies are reluctant to invest in pubs that may be only moderately profitable. Older suburban pubs often sit on large sites in areas that already residential in character; redevelopment into accommodation must be very tempting for the owners. In this way, a pub that isn't doing a great deal for a pub company can suddenly become a lottery win.
It's my view that the pub companies sometimes help this process along by neglecting their pubs so that they become dingy and uninviting, thus driving customers away and into the town centre pubs, which are generally better maintained (three of the pubs named above were very close to the town centre anyway). The pub is then deemed unviable and closed.
The call by industry organisations for further cuts in beer duty, business rates and a hospitality rate of VAT. These might help, but they won't do anything to sort out the debt mountain the pubco industry is stuck with. Cashing in their assets will therefore remain a preferable alternative to continuing investment and moderate returns.